Why I don’t answer the phone

A warning to everyone: I don’t like it when you call or e-mail me and your first sentence is “Why didn’t you answer your phone?” Even if it’s not posed as a question but as a statement (“You didn’t answer your phone, that’s why I e-mail you…”), the reproachful undertone cannot be missed.

Don’t disturb!

I could give all kinds of reasons:

  • I was at the library.
  • I was eating.
  • I was on the other phone.
  • I was sleeping.
  • I didn’t hear it.
  • I was out running.
  • I was in the bathroom.
  • I was climbing up a tree.
  • I was jumping out of a plane.
  • I was in hand-to-hand combat with an assassin who was after my life.
  • I didn’t find the right button in time.

But I won’t.

Because it’s none of your business. I don’t owe an explanation to anyone about what I do with my time. It’s my life. Nobody is entitled to my time or attention.

I am not a slave to anyone. And I definitely won’t become a slave to a little gadget, like too many people have become.

Sometimes, I wonder what aliens would think about us humans if they came to visit from another planet: They would notice that we have machines with us or on our desks that sometimes emit a sound, upon which the humans jump to attention immediately and drop everything else, whether it’s a book, their dinner or even a conversation. The aliens would have to come to the conclusion that we are controlled by these beeping machines. – And maybe some of us are, sadly.


About Andreas Moser

Travelling the world and writing about it. I have degrees in law and philosophy, but I'd much rather be a writer, a spy or a hobo.
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50 Responses to Why I don’t answer the phone

  1. John Erickson says:

    Oh, the tyranny of the telephone! Though (I hate to say this) I did notice you didn’t mention being with a beautiful woman. Yet you DID mention both hand-to-hand combat, AND jumping out of a plane. Do we need to have a discussion about priorities? ;) You can’t learn EVERY thing from a book, my friend! You have to get out there and live a little. Although, if you’re jumping out of airplanes AND fighting assassins, maybe we need to discuss your concept of LIVING! :D

  2. I just re-blogged your post on FB because I think it’s so spot on. I really share your thoughts from the first to the last line. Since mobile phones exists, people assume we are always available and, if not, that we need to explain WHY we were not. I don’t need to explain anything and I will even “dare” to switch my mobile phone off when I want to!

  3. This is not a machine you are supposed to answer to, this is another human being on the other side of the line who is trying to reach you through that machine and if you ignore that ring you are basically ignoring him or her, not a machine!

  4. “Sometimes, I wonder what aliens would think about us humans if they came to visit from another planet…”

    I’d rather be more down to Earth and wonder what Burrhus F. Skinner would say to all this. He, who tried so hard to teach rats how to respond to a stimulus would be quite amazed seing people doing just that without obvious reward. Maybe, I wonder, he would skip this whole idea of rewards being necessary to trigger some kind of response and convert to cognitive psychology … because it’s all imagined, even rewards are imagined nowadays.

  5. anniefee says:

    noch nerviger sind die Leute, die 1000mal anrufen, anstatt einmal auf die mailbox zu sprechen oder eine Kurznachricht zu schreiben oder eine email. ich meine, die email klingelt nicht rum und weckt kinder auf oder nervt die mitfahrer etc.
    deshalb kann ich den mailfrust von dir nicht ganz verstehen. ich telefoniere fast nur noch zu vorher abgesprochenen zeitpunkten. sonst schaffe ich es einfach nicht, binnen 30sec. zum phon zu rennen und die grüne taste zu drücken, ich meine, wer sitzt schon permanent neben dem ding, man ist ja nicht seine eigene sekretärin ;-)

  6. livininsanity says:

    Next time someone asks, “Why didn’t you answer your phone?” respond by asking them, “Why did you call me while I was eating?” :P
    When I first moved to an ecovillage a few years ago, I became accustomed to everyone ignoring the phone if it rang during dinner. It was totally new to me, but I liked it. And, if you got up to answer the phone during dinner, and it wasn’t for you, good luck getting anyone to come to the phone while they were eating.

  7. I agree.

    I “forget” my cellphone most of the time or the battery is low or dead. Perfect! I hate being available all the time and find it intrusive. Some people feel lost and terrified if they are not.

  8. I have added a video clip which is somewhat appropriate. (Or maybe it’s just an excuse for some 80s music for those of us who remember this time fondly.)

  9. MyParallelDiagonal says:

    Love it! I hate having to answer my phone and these days I hate having to see work related emails at a non work time. I ignore most phone calls, at first I would be hounded by people saying they called, now most of them don’t ask. However, there are a few who will call and text you right after telling you they called.

  10. James says:

    Fuck you. Just fuck you. You are an adult, part of interacting with other people and doing business involves communicating at times that may not be ideal for you. Answer the fucking phone asshole… goof.

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  14. maybe I’m “little bit” too late, but this one is GOOD!

    • It’s never too late! Some of these posts are timeless, especially this one about phone use. I keep e-mailing the link to people who ask me why I didn’t answer my phone.

  15. Nope says:

    “The aliens would have to come to the conclusion that we are controlled by these beeping machines. – And maybe some of us are, sadly.”

    I highly disagree. I am not a big fan of taking every call, but seriously: if you don’t want to get calls, don’t get a phone.
    Having a telephone/mobile and obviously telling others your number and not answering it is not “not being controlled by the beeping machine”. It’s plain rude. You are not ignoring a “beeping machine” you are ignoring another person who is trying to talk to you.

    I have no mobile myself for almost the same reasons you don’t seem to answer your phone: If I am not home, I am not home. Still, if anybody calls my landline, I answer it.

    • Bilbo Baggins says:

      I have an eleven dollar a month Tracphone because my ex insisted on it being in the divorce papers, custody issue. I have a working, functioning phone. 3/4’s of the time I really don’t hear it–as a teacher it stays on vibrate.

  16. Florian says:

    Es gibt mehr als immer nur schwarz und weiß. Man muss weder ständig rennen, wenn’s Telefon klingelt, noch muss man NIE rangehen. Das hängt immer ganz von der Situation ab. Aber ich halte es für (mindestens) Unfug und auf jeden Fall Arroganz ggü. den Mitmenschen (die einem ja teilweise sehr nahe stehen), nie ans Telefon zu gehen… Menschen kommunizieren miteinander, das ist ein großer Brocken des sozialen Miteinanders. Und Menschen kommunizieren auch per Telefon und wenn das Telefon klingelt, könnte es doch sein, dass der Mensch am anderen Ende der Leitung etwas wichtiges will. Mach das von der Situation abhängig. Wenn Du in der Badewanne sitzt gehst Du nicht ran, wenn Du am Schreibtisch sitzt und es klingelt, gehst Du evtl. ran und wenn Deine Mutter/Partner/Kind anruft (und Du es wegen Rufnummernübermittlung siehst) gehst Du auf jeden Fall ran (wenn Du keine Rufnummernübermittlung hast, dann streiche das dritte Beispiel). Alles andere ist eine Kinderei…

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  18. Cheri Love says:

    My favorite is one you didn’t – expressly – list: I simply don’t want to talk. It’s not personal, it’s global!

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  24. It’s so true. I feel the same way, at least about the phone ringing. It’s very often not ringing at a convenient time. I don’t get why people are so obsessed with being on the phone. I’d much rather see people in real life.

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  27. vidavidav says:

    I just decided to part with one of my clients. She used to freak out if I didn´t answer her phone call the same second she took her phone in her hands. She used to act as if me not be available for her the very minute I betrayed her in the worst of ways and as if at the same time this fact allowed her to harass me in most inappropriate ways, including swearing, fearing me, proving me I betrayed her, saying all I ever did for her was wrong, pick on every possible detail, like why the sound of the connection is not ideal “are you sinking in milk?”, talking to me like to a small child “when you are crawl out of that underground where you are now, call me”, drop the call without saying bye, etc. etc. I realized I can not work with hysterical people who act as if they own me just because we signed a contract that I do a small job for her. I should have seen your post before one of her rages and read every single letter of it!

  28. RF says:

    I dissagree with you in every possible way.
    1st. Every single one of the reasons you state starts with “I”. You make a big deal out of yourself.
    2nd. Everyone who calls you at your leasure (You’re not talking about business) is actually honoring you for thinking of YOU and giving YOU priority to share HIS/HERS valuable time with. By not answering, you just become notoriously rude (and audacious enough to brag about it).
    3rd. If you are so overhelmingly popular and receive so many calls you cannot handle, that make you loose your peace of mind, turn the g…d device off.

    • Why is it rude not to answer the phone when I don’t have time or don’t feel like it? I have no obligation to answer, nor is anyone entitled to a piece of my time.

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  32. Anonymous says:

    I agree! I hate it that people think they can just get hold of me anytime they feel like it. I never answer my phone unless i am in the mood for it. People get so mad with me but I do not care. It is my life. Not theirs!
    I love the answer of saying “why did you ring me while I was eating!” I am going to use that! Cos I never know what to say to all the “why didn’t you answer?” etc etc

  33. Allen Peterson says:

    It has become like a fad not to answer phone calls or respond in a reasonable amount of time. It’s a sign of the stupid times we live in. If I am not important enough for a person to answer the phone or call me back within a few hours or the same day then I have no business having anything to do with that person businesswise or personally. Then if you have an attitude because I am letting you know I am disappointed with your behavior you can really Fu¢k Off!!

    • I am terribly sorry, Sir, but if I take all calls and respond to all e-mails, I won’t have any time left to read the books I want to read, to go for long walks, to enjoy a movie, to learn French or to study for my history degree.
      There is a finite amount of time and attention in everyone’s day, and I need to reserve as much as possible of that for myself in order for me to feel like I am leading a self-determined life.

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